TORONTO – Richard Eckersley was both a positive and a constant in Toronto FC’s frequently changing, frequently porous back four last season.
Injuries – particularly season-ending knee surgeries for Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams – decimated a back line that was in flux all year.
It should be different in 2012. The back four should be more settled. Familiarity should be more the norm.
And that suits Eckersley just fine.
“If you look at all the best teams in the world, they all have, besides one or two changes every now and again, a similar back four throughout the season,” the 22-year-old English right back said just before the team left Toronto last week to continue their preseason in Orlando. “They don’t start chopping and changing. I think last season we obviously had to make a few changes and swaps, but now hopefully we’ve got that back four to where we can work together and build on what we’ve got.”
Eckersley played 23 games after joining the Toronto in April on loan from the English team Burnley. He made such an impression with his aggressive play that the Reds signed him to a permanent contract.
“Richard Eckersley will never disappoint you [in his attitude],” lead assistant coach Bob de Klerk told MLSsoccer.com from Orlando in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “He’s very strong, he’s fast. I think he only has to learn to be more comfortable with the ball, be more patient with the ball, search at the right moment and choose the right moment, maybe five or six times a game, to go for the overlap.”
The players not only are becoming more familiar with each other but with the 4-3-3 system that was introduced last season by de Klerk and head coach and technical director Aron Winter.
“It’s a case of playing with each other and coming to grips with what we’re trying to do,” Eckersley said. “I’ve been impressed with the whole start of the season so far. It’s more about building the chemistry and working together and that’s what we’ve been doing.
“I think you could see it in the first few weeks of preseason that we’re coming together well. I think it’s important to have that team spirit and that team togetherness and we’ll be very hard to beat. Obviously, with the 4-3-3, everyone is used to it now, so I think it’s only going to get better from here.”